NAIROBI, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- They are the best friends and training partners, but that will count for nothing when champions Mary Keitany and Edna Kiplagat of Kenya battle it out for a piece of the pie at the New York Marathon on Sunday.
Another Kenyan Betsy Saina will be running on a short leash in their shadows ready to pounce as she makes her debut in the marathon.
However, it is Keitany who looks the overwhelming favorite and every rivals will set a target of toppling her from the throne.
"Running at this level is always competitive. A big challenge. That is why it attracts the best athletes. I have done well in training and what remains is see how I will react to the challenges each opponent will throw at me," Keitany said in Nairobi on Monday.
Alongside the quartet, Kenya will have one serious contender in the men's race as World Half marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor returns to road race for the first time this year, after he stayed away to focus on the track competition ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
There is also a late entrant in Wilson Kipsang, who despite failing to finish the Berlin marathon late last month, ruled himself fit to compete in New York. The five Kenyans departed for New York on Monday buoyant of success.
Saina, who on Sunday saw her friend Vivian Cheruiyot, running her second marathon, clinch the gold medal in Frankfurt, said it is a motivation for her to set her own pace and path as she launches a career in marathon.
"All is set for New York marathon. My bags are ready and the training has been good," she said. However, many fans have their bets on Keitany.
The Kenyan set a women-only marathon world record in London in April and could take her fourth consecutive crown in New York with her compatriots expected to escort her to her fourth coronation.
Kiplagat, the two-time marathon world champion, won silver at this year's world championships in London and Ethiopia's Mare Dibaba and former London champion Tigist Tufa will be the stumbling block in her path.
But in the men's race, Kipsang and Kamwror will be joined by defending NYC champion and 2015 world champ Ghirmay Gebreslassie and two-time Boston champ Lelise Desisa.